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Targeting HIV's sugar coating

SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 23, 2011 University of Utah researchers have discovered a new class of compounds that stick to the sugary coating of the AIDS virus and inhibit it from infecting cells an early step toward a new treatment to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.

Development and laboratory testing of the potential new microbicide to prevent human immunodeficiency virus infection is outlined in a study set for online publication by Friday in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Despite years of research, there is only one effective microbicide to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, which causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Microbicide development has focused on gels and other treatments that would be applied vaginally by women, particularly in Africa and other developing regions.

To establish infection, HIV must first enter the cells of a host organism and then take control of the cells' replication machinery to make copies of itself. Those HIV copies in turn infect other cells. These two steps of the HIV life cycle, known as viral entry and viral replication, each provide a potential target for anti-AIDS medicines.

"Most of the anti-HIV drugs in clinical trials target the machinery involved in viral replication," says the study's senior author, Patrick F. Kiser, associate professor of bioengineering and adjunct associate professor of pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Utah.

"There is a gap in the HIV treatment pipeline for cost-effective and mass-producible viral entry inhibitors that can inactivate the virus before it has a chance to interact with target cells," he says.

Kiser conducted the study with Alamelu Mahalingham, a University of Utah graduate student in pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry; Anthony Geonnotti of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.; and Jan Balzarini of Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Contact: Lee Siegel
University of Utah

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